Returning to the landing, a stair leads to the boat cellar and
Peggy herself. She has rested here undisturbed for more than a century
and a half, and at some point in that time the opening through which
she used to pass into the harbour was walled up, and the ground
filled in within the enclosure, cutting her off for ever from her
For many years almost forgotten, in 195, she was "re-discovered",
and immediately seen by nautical enthusiasts to be of the greatest
interest. The Society for Nautical Research made a detailed record
of her, and plans and photographs were exhibited at the Science
Museum, South Kensington.
In 1941, when Bridge House, the old home and town-house of the
Quayles was sold, the Peggy was presented to the Manx Museum Trustees,
together with the boathouse, but it was not until 1950 that it became
possible to undertake the necessary repairs to her. Happily, she
had survived her long confinement almost intact, and only the keel,
the stern post and two planks of the hull where she had lain on
her starboard side, required replacement. She was repaired by local
craftsmen and placed in a cradle. (Her original keel is now preserved
in the loft of the Nautical Museum.) Finally, in 1951, the Trustees
were able, with the aid of much generous support, to put the Nautical
Museum and the Peggy on view to the public.
Built in 1789, the Peggy was a schooner-rigged, clinker-built
yacht 26ft 5ins overall length, 7ft 8ins beam, with an inside depth
of 6ft. The Admiralty licence which was issued to her in 1793 describes
her as of 6.5 tons burthen, and details her armament as six small
swivels and six fowling pieces. In fact, she was equipped with eight
cannon, six 1ft long mounted three a side, and two slightly longer
as stern chasers.
Her main planking was of pine. The planks vary in width from 6in
to 8in and are 7/8in thick. The rubbing strakes on the three top
planks appear to be of teak, the same wood being used for the moulding
on the transom. Hull fastenings throughout consist of heavy iron
bolts. Ribs and floors are of oak. Floors are approximately 7in
deep and 1in thick amidships, the size being reduced to only 3.5
in deep and 1.5 in thick in the forward floors.
Most of the spars and both the masts are still intact, so it has
been possible to reconstruct her sail plan with some accuracy. The
rig appears to have consisted of a gaff mainsail, a gaff foresail,
and a jib, and was probably very like that of a schooner yacht shown
in the painting of 1772 of Captain Cook's expedition leaving the
Downs. The size of the Peggy was probably determined by the man
o' war launch of her day - general dimensions are about the size
of the Bounty's launch in which Captain Bligh made his amazing 4,000
mile voyage. Her lines, however, have a much more streamlined appearance
and she was undoubtedly much faster.
Unusual features which made her an advanced boat for her day were
her drop keels (called "sliding keels" by Quayle), the
slots for which can be seen, and which made her much more manoeuverable.
Her transom stern is a particularly attractive one; the paintwork
has survived and has been carefully preserved, with its decorative
motif and the inscription George Quayle Castletown. An earlier phase
of the decoration of the stern can just be made out, with the name
"PEGGY" in gilt on a green background. Altogether, the
Peggy is a fine craft, and full of historic interest, showing as
she does the skill and knowledge of her builders in her durability
and the excellence of her design.
It may seem strange that this little pleasure craft was equipped
with eight small cannon - not to mention "half-a-dozen
fowling pieces" but when the Peggy was built, wars with
the French were once more in the offing, and the seas about the
Island were at such times the haunt of privateers. In such circumstances,
it is in keeping with what we know of her owner, that he should
have equipped her with these little brass guns.
In fact, she appears to have gone her way unmolested in her voyages
about the Irish Sea, and she must have made the trip to England
on many occasions. A record exists of one of these, for in 1796
she sailed to and from a regatta on Lake Windermere, where according
to George Quayle, she aroused interest and achieved success:
".. the long bolsprit (i.e. bowsprit) and
sliding keels have already produced strong symptoms of scisme among
the devotees of freshwater sailing. Captain Heywood's boat is the
second best in the Lake - modesty prevents me from saying who bears
the bell. . . "
The return journey in very rough weather put the Peggy and her
skipper to the test, and with the tide and gale against him, he
debated whether to run for Liverpool or Wales, but:
". . . we put down the sliding keels and that
enabled us to stand on, now and then letting fly the foresail and
continuing our tack we fetched about three leagues of the leeward
of the Calf. The wind now changed to the westward and by one tack
we fetched this (Castletown) Bay . . . the quarter cloths were of
very great protection, without them I believe we had gone to Davy
Jones's locker, and without the sliding keels we could not have
carried sail enough."
How many other stories could the Peggy tell of storms weathered
and safe harbour reached, before she swallowed the anchor and came
to rest finally in her berth, to bear witness today to the long
history of Manx seamanship.